Written by Jennifer Narciso

Costa-Rican-Born American Physicist and First Hispanic Astronaut

Franklin Chang-Diaz was born on April 5, 1950 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Since a child, Franklin always aspired to become an astronautafter being fascinated by the space discoveries of the 60’s.Chang-Diaz always dreamed of moving to the United States and pursuingacareer as anastronaut. In 1967, Franklin’s parents sent him to live with relatives in Connecticut, where he only arrived with $50.00 in his pocket with no knowledge of the English language.After his arrival, he persuaded Hartford Public High School to accept him as a senior in high school with full courses. During the first two quarters of his senior year, Franklin failed his courses. Although this might have caused others to give up, Franklin continued his education and did so well on his last two quarters of high school that it got him a full ride scholarship to the University of Connecticut where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineeringin 1973.

While you might think hisstrivein succeeding ended here, Franklin Chang-Diaz continued his studies and in 1977 he accomplished a doctorate in applied plasma physics from MIT. In 1980, Chang-Diaz’s dream came true when he was appointed to take part of the NASA astronaut program, where his life changed forever. There he accomplished seven spaceflights and eventually served as a director of NASA’s Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory in Houston.

Later, after he retired from the propulsion laboratory, he decided to transition into teaching at Rice University and the University of Houston. Franklin Chang-Diazfaced many struggles such as coming to a new state with no knowledge whatsoever of the language required, constant effort to succeed and attend college, and with big dreams which all lead him to become an extraordinary Costa Rican-born American physicist and the first Hispanic astronaut.


“Dr. Franklin Chang-Daz.” NASA, NASA, starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/whos_who_level2/diaz.html

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Franklin Chang-Díaz.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Apr. 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Franklin-Chang-Diaz